It was a dream season for the Elk River Elks. They won the program's first state championship in its 125th year, using a dominating run game and a solid defense to steamroll their way through Class AAAAA.
One of the players in the middle of everything was lineman Ronald Audette. Although it was difficult to tell based off of his play, the junior played the entire year with an injury he is still not fully recovered from.
“It happened during the Gophers' camp before the season,” Audette said. “I played last season with a torn labrum. I got it operated on February 1st.”
Audette didn't miss a game.
“I just pushed through it,” the left tackle said. “It seems like every year I am playing with an injury. I didn't want this to slow me down. Especially at the end (of the season), it was killing me, but I just knew I had to be there for my team. We only had a couple of games left, and I wanted to finish up the season strong.”
NFN's 7th-ranked junior was able to push through the injury, but he had to adjust how he played.
“The biggest problem was driving people off the line – with hand extension,” Audette said. “I had to hit people with my shoulder because I wasn't able to get the power out of my left arm.”
Once fully recovered, Audette – who also rotates in at defensive tackle – knows he has some catching up to do.
“Right now I am behind a lot of weight lifting and conditioning wise after being out for a couple of months. I am going to focus on my legs because I am limited to only certain things with my arms,” said the avid fisherman and grouse hunter. “This year is going to be a lot of leg work.”
Despite his inability to go one hundred percent, colleges are all over the Elk River junior.
“It is a cool experience having all these coaches talking to me, interested in me and wanting me to play for their school,” Audette said. “We have morning workouts three days a week and having coaches come to see me work out that is a privilege.”
Even though he is still limited during his workouts, college recruiters don't seem to care.
“I can still show them what I can do with my legs,” Audette told NFN. “I am a 300-pound guy, but I can still move like a running back.”
North Dakota and South Dakota State have offered the 6'3″ 310-pound junior. Wyoming, New Mexico, Iowa, Northern Iowa and North Dakota State are talking with or have visited Audette.
“They like my legs,” Audette said. “When I was visiting North Dakota I asked them what they saw in me. They told me when they came to visit the school they liked my legs – just the look of how they are built. They talked to some of my teachers, and one of them said she wished I would be dating her daughter. They like my character.”
Colleges seem to be okay overlooking his current injury, and they also are willing to ignore the fact that in the Elks' offense Audette sometimes goes entire games – including the state title game – without have to drop into pass protection.
“I know I learn quickly and I have gone to a few camps and was able to do some pass blocking. They see the potential I have because the footwork I do have I should be able to pick up on pass blocking.”
He certainly has run blocking down.
“I am fast off the ball,” the three-year starter said.” I have a good three-yard get off. I am good at getting to the second level and getting to linebackers. I am able to use my quickness to hit the defender and start driving him before he can hit me.”
He was a good enough run blocker for college programs to overlook his lack of experience as a pass blocker. He was a good enough run blocker to be as effective as he was nowhere near 100 percent all season. He is a good enough player to make a college program very happy when he signs on the dotted line where ever he decides to continue his football career.